We all have Social Security numbers, even children. Well, criminals are making good use of those numbers. Children are the new surprising target for identity thieves.
Youngsters make great targets because if they become identity theft victims, it could be years before the crime is detected.
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This is a huge issue and we need to start by checking whether your children’s Social Security numbers have been stolen. Parents really need to take action, even if you have a newborn. Identity theft could affect your child’s future credit and employment history if the thieves — who sometimes turn out to be family members, according to TransUnion credit — obtain credit accounts or event get jobs with your child’s identity.
How do you know if your child’s identity has been stolen? This is where you need to start paying attention:
First, you need to check with the Social Security Administration once a year to make sure no one is using your child’s number.
Secondly, you need to check your child’s credit report (free at Equifax -1-800-525-6285; Experian-1-888-397-3742; or TransUnion-1-800-680-7289.) You can also report fraud to credit reporting companies. By law you are entitled to a once-a-year free report.
Third, if your child starts getting suspicious mail, like pre-approved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent to adults, pay attention. Other ways you will find out is if you try to open an account for your child for his future, and it already exists, or if you apply for financial assistance because he or she is going to college soon and you are turned down because of a poor credit rating in their name.
Tips to use
Keep all documents that show a child’s personal information safely locked up. What is personal? At a minimum, it includes a child’s date of birth, Social Security number and birth certificate. Do not carry your child’s Social Security card with you.
Share your child’s Social Security number only when you know and trust the other party including school and doctor office. Ask why they want it, how they will safeguard it and how long they will keep it and how they will dispose of it. If you are not satisfied with the answers, don’t share the number. Ask them to use another identifier. For more information visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.